You’ve heard that cats land on their feet, but now you can see the tiny twists and turns that go into doing it.
Slow-motion footage posted on YouTube last week by the BBC shows an African caracal falling and righting itself before landing on its feet. The captivating footage, part of BBC One’s “Defying Gravity” series, details what seems like a simple act and shows us all the grace that goes into it.
“All cats have a remarkable design,” the video narrator says. “A flexible spine which allows them to rotate their front and back ends in different directions at the same time.”
Although the video clip doesn’t expand on this, cats know when they have to use this feature because tiny hairs in their inner ears will alert them to correct their body’s orientation. Then the complex steps begin.
“The caracal creates a clockwise rotation in the front half of its body but the back spins in the opposite direction,” the narrator continues in the video. “By spinning in two different directions at the same time, the caracal is effectively pushing against itself.”
The final steps are pulling in the front legs close, to make the front body half spin faster. The spine then twists, and that allows the back legs to swing around and prepare to land.
It’s an amazing feat of animal engineering.